The embargo on Cuba, one of the pillars of U.S. policy toward the island for more than half a century, now teeters on collapse, it seems — at least in terms of public support.
For some time, there has been a movement in Washington, Congress and President Barack Obama’s White House to eliminate the old Cold War blockade — launched by President John F. Kennedy after Cuba cozied up to the Russians. More than five decades later, it has only failed to oust the Castros from power. Despite its ineffectiveness, a majority of Cuban exiles, for the majority of those 50 years, has stood firm in demanding that it remain in place.
But a recent study takes note of a shift: According to a poll by Florida International University, the majority of Cuban-Americans appear to want the embargo lifted.
This is a first, and an ironic one. With the United States’ normalized relations with Cuba, which have given Americans far easier access to the island, and the flights and cruises to take them there, the restrictive embargo seems archaic.
However, the Castro regime has yet to do much of anything to warrant its elimination: The state of human rights remains abysmal; freedom of expression is a nonstarter; and democratic elections are nowhere on the horizon.
The latest outrage is Cuba’s refusal to allow Cuban-American flight crews on U.S. airlines to overnight on the island.
Still, the FIU study found that among Cuban-Americans more than half of respondents (54.3 percent) are in favor of removing the embargo. It should be said that many are likely to be Cubans who arrived here in recent years and that the population of more staunchly anti-Castro exiles dating from the early ‘60s is getting smaller.
In addition, a high figure of 74.4 percent of survey participants think that the embargo has not worked or has not worked very well.
In 2014, only 45 percent opposed the embargo. Much has happened since it was imposed in October 1960, then went into full effect in 1962, blocking American firms from doing business with Cuba.
The dynamic between Cuba and the United States has changed, especially since the Dec. 17, 2014, when President Obama announced the thawing of relations between the two countries and began a process of rapprochement.
But the study’s most telling factor is that young immigrants, born long after the explosive first stage of the Castro regime, want something different.
This group favors lifting the embargo and ending all travel restrictions supported by those who preceded them here by several decades.
However, the younger group wants to maintain the Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet foot/dry foot policy, which many consider the reason for the recent waves of Cuban migrants trying to reach the United States across several Central American countries before the door closes – as it inevitably will.
In Cuba, the Castro regime remains mired in its worn rhetoric tied more to the bygone era of the Cold War, unwilling to make concessions and, frankly, reaping rewards without having to do so.
Though the shift in Cuban-American sentiment against the U.S. embargo of Cuba is an intriguing sign of the times, the shift that really matters here is the one that the Castro regime has yet to make.
And that, alone, mandates that the embargo remain in place. It’s the only leverage the United States has left.